The Journey across Southern Island by Alexander Opicho
Short Story

The year is none other than 2017 December. In fact, three days to the end of December. The mood is obviously festive as usual, Christmas hangover extending into the anxieties that go with expectations of the New Year. Loud Rhumba music is heard on every street of Kampala in a style of the carnival or Shrovetide, the music is however more loud in the upmarket neighbourhoods of Wandegeya, next to Makerere University. This is where I stay with my wife since we secretly took an oath for lesbian marriage one year ago. In fact we began staying together after we both graduated from Makerere University.

It has been very hard but we have stayed. Ugandan politics of the day, overtones of Islamic values in the public culture, the prevailing marriage law, as well as the local culture blend into a collective tempo of the moment that is not tolerant to same sex marriage. So we are staying as a couple but only in a clandestine manner, skulking in our social life every now and then to keep ourselves going. People usually make comments about me and my wife, that we are the most beautiful ladies Ugandans have ever seen. We don’t always understand what they mean. Anyway, we always think the comments away as one of the usual derogatory remarks Ugandans generally have about Kenyans. Hence such remarks are not a big deal that can keep our minds toying for nothing.

My wife is two years younger than me, I am twenty eight years old. We are both from the Gikuyu ethnic community from Kiambu County in the central region of Kenya. We always joke that we are the only two daughters of Mumbi in the land of bananas, Mumbi being the first parent of all the Gikuyu people. Thus we are two Kenyan ladies with same sex orientation, living in Uganda. Good luck, no man or woman or even any Ugandan friends to the best of my knowledge are aware of our homosexuality for the past four years we have been at Makerere University. My name is Waithera, meaning last born, but my wife’s name is Njeri, meaning the beautiful one. We are conventionally beautiful. We are both slender and tall. Each of us has a pronounced bosom. Our skin is chocolate. Njeri, Njeri is buxom and rollicking in visual effects, she has dimples ever surfacing up in cheeks on every one of her smiles or laughs. I have six fingers on my hands. However I challenge Njeri with a well-shaped natural gap in the upper front row of my teeth. She has no such a feature in her dental beauties. But the small rounded shape of her small lips gives her a charm and twee looks that kill all lesbians with flame of desire.

We joined Makerere University the same year, in the school of social sciences. Njeri was admitted for sociology and I was admitted for political science. We conveniently noticed one another during the sessions of common classes when we were in the first year. I think it was Introduction to Philosophy and Logic. It was easy for us to bond given that we are both Gikuyu, speak the same language, share same hopes and fears as well as natural feelings of the Gikuyu nation.

We are happily running our business. We sell earrings, necklaces, perfumes, lingerie, brassieres, imported wines, airtime for cell-phones, nail varnish, lipsticks, foot-bangles, tattoo-paints, and sanitary towels. The business is doing well given that we carry it out mainly from our house and through phone calls. Involvement in this business has been a blessing to us, it relieved us from the pain of knocking on doors from one office to another in the name of looking for a job. There are no ready job openings for social science graduates in the East Africa of today.

I have just decided to refresh my memory on Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin and White Masks. Its homo-erotic themes across racial divides always warm up my spine with sensuous chills.

It is hot in the afternoon. I am alone in our room, doing some cosmetic reading. I have just decided to refresh my memory on Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin and White Masks. Its homo-erotic themes across racial divides always warm up my spine with sensuous chills. I want to read it as I wait for Njeri. She has just rushed to Kyambogi estate for M-pesa transactions. This is the only estate in Kampala where one can get mobile money services in Kenyan shillings.

I don’t know why Njeri has somehow delayed coming back; I have decided to pause from reading for mid-day news. The BBC news is always my favourite channel. The news that comes on on the screen of television set is specifically horrifying to me. My country Kenya is on fire. Buildings are being destroyed and burned all over. The violent canaille is all over, armed with swords and all type of common man’s weapon. They are chanting war songs. I fail to understand what is happening to my country. I am only realizing that presidential elections results have been rigged, I mean a civil coup has been effected. The opposition politician Raila Odinga has won the votes as a president, against the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga has garnered the votes from thirty-nine communities against Kenyatta who has only been voted for by two communities. Odinga has won, but the incumbent president has used government machinery to deliberately falsify the results to declare himself the winner. The youths and old men from the communities that voted for Odinga are now up in arms. They are out to kill any Gikuyu man and Gikuyu woman, because the incumbent president is a Gikuyu man. The Armed forces, I mean the Kenya defense force, is also divided, with the majority of them in support of Odinga.

I am still glued to the screen when two plain clothes Ugandan policemen walk into the room.They have the physiocratic features of Banyankole, the tribe of Yoweri Museveni. They don’t talk to me or even greet me, they only order me to report to Kampala central police station in the next five hours. I must go there with my spouse, again they persist to me not to fail. I am agog. Something is wrong somewhere. I am diametrically divided between looking at the policemen as they walk out and watching the breaking news of ‘Kenya is burning’ on the screen. Sincerely, some moments can be bad.

Within a flick of a second Njeri also walks in breathing heavily, like a tired old ox pulling a yoke. To my dismay she has not heard of the violence in Kenya. Instead, she has been called in a foul manner by a boy that used to be her boyfriend. The boy has told her she is going to see fire that she will know that Uganda is not Kenya where tomfoolery is entertained. The centerpiece of her story is that she had been having relations with this boy as an affinitive friend up to three years ago. His name is Athuman Sebunya from Mbarara. All these happened because Njeri is not a lesbian. She is bisexual. She can be in both homosexual relationship as well as a man-to-woman relationship. She used to accept gifts like free lunch and money from this boy. This relationship came to an end when Njeri became my lesbian wife and I the hubby. I think she has sort of told the boy that we are now a same sex couple. As a way of revenge the boy must have been driven by jealousy to betray me and Njeri to the police. Athuman must be a pure waif of a cad. A very competent caitiff.

It is now our turn to run away to Kenya, notwithstanding the anti-Gikuyu war there. We have agreed among ourselves that it is better to die running away than to be a Kenyan lesbian couple in Ugandan prisons.

Njeri is already putting our things together, plus her trousseau, in to two big bags. I take out my cell-phone called our taxi driver to come and pick us away. His name is Benge; he is a polite man from northern Uganda. In fact from Gulu, the village where Okot P’ Bitek was born. He is a polite man and very knowledgeable about literature. He arrives on time, in his characteristic avuncular pose. We crack some jokes with him then we get into the taxi after locking our house. We don’t take our house wares for the sake of convenience. Benge drives us through Naguru, a terrible slum in the heart of Kampala City. We are all joking and are carefree in spirit. Benge is sending us to a wild giggle loudly as he shows us a ramshackle club for locally brewed beer in which Okot P’ Bitek used to work as a part-time guitarist to beef up his meager earnings from teaching at the University.

We moved southwards towards Entebbe road, and now we have branched towards Mukono Township. Our hearts are palpitating with joy. We are almost free from fear of state terrorism against lesbians.

We are now driving past Bukolobi Night Club, towards the football pitch where the Al Shabab terrorist once attacked. We are sure no policeman is following us. Uganda police have that type of over-confidence of having been guerilla; they know that no woman can defy their order. This is also the time women demonstrators have just been maimed at the breasts. We have reached Uganda Museum driving towards city center where the King Fahd Plaza is. We moved southwards towards Entebbe road, and now we have branched towards Mukono Township. Our hearts are palpitating with joy. We are almost free from fear of state terrorism against lesbians.

We have only taken one hour to drive through Mukono to Jinja. We are lucky there is no traffic jam. Jinja town is looking so warm and gallant in the early evening sunshine. The banks of the river Nile are so scenic, cool and peaceful. The copper mining factory of Kilembe mine is not yelling smoke. Pick-ups are intermittently passing us, fully packed to the brim with fresh Nkege fish.

We are now at Malaba border; I and Njeri have been asleep when passing through Tororo town. I have not been lucky to see Tororo cement factory. Although I am compensating this loss with another engaging social scene at Malaba border, the Ateso elders are just in the open drinking from the common beer pot, some are dancing, some are singing, some are smoking pipes and others are on three legged traditional stools patiently waiting for the turn to be given a drinking horn from a drinking partner. Benge has dropped us off just in front of the Crown Bank; we have given him two thousand Kenyan shillings, currently an equivalent of seventy thousand Ugandan shillings. Benge is overjoyed, in disbelief. He has forgotten that we are not Acholi; he is fluently thanking us in Acholi language. We are reciprocating too in a little Ugandan Dholuo dialect we can speak, courtesy of what we have informally learned at Makerere University.

We are now in Kenya. It is early in the evening. The nightly darkness is falling. Good luck we are in Malaba town on the Kenyan side. We are surprised, things are not normal. It is only six in the evening and the town is deserted. There are no people, no loud music, no usual short and brown Gikuyu hawkers moving here and there. The long distance lorries are packed but with no drivers in sight nor the prostitutes that usually swing their artificial buttocks to sexually provoke the drivers. Something is wrong. We have moved like a half kilometer towards the police station but still there is no human being in sight. It is Njeri who is the first to spot the dead bodies of two men at the side of the road. From their appearance they must have been Gikuyus killed by the locals of this place. We are frightened.There is fear on Njeri’s face. We don’t know what we can do to save ourselves; we are unwanted lesbians in Uganda and most unwanted Gikuyus in Kenya. God has a purpose to allow death.

As we are just walking on, a man, probably in his thirties, surfaces from the darkness. He is walking in a stagger, perhaps slightly drunk. He tries to talk to us in the local Koine. But unfortunately we are not able to understand, we then talk to him in Kiswahili. An expression of sadistic chuckle is seen on his baby face. He, then he shouts to us his name, that his name is Ikapel, and he is a native of Malaba district.

‘Are you Gikuyus?’

We are sent out of our mental balance by the question. Of course we are Gikuyus, but this is not the right time to announce yourself a Gikuyu in Kenya.

We are not able to answer the question. Instead we are looking at him in a fixed gaze as if the highly charged electricity in his question has electrocuted us to statues.

He has now noticed we are terrified beyond giving him any answer. Then he goes ahead to tell us that all the Kwekwe, meaning Gikuyus have been cleared away, but because we are women he is now going to help us to move out of Ateso land safely. We are still feeling unsafe, because his communication is in a uncertain stature. It has both slight colours of dishonesty and overtones of distant sympathy.

We have nothing to do, only to respect his orders to follow him. He snatches a bag from Njeri, to assist her.

‘This one looks very tired.’

He hurls a message of comfort to Njeri as he walks and we follow him to whatever destination.

‘Yes i am very tired,’ responds Njeri, in a shrewd and effeminate tone. A tone which provokes Ikapel to go on with more balderdash.

‘A woman like you is good, I can even marry you, and look your bosom is huge and warm.’ He says this as he goes ahead to pinch Njeri on the buttocks. Very offensive behaviour. However, we both pretend to be enjoying it lest he change his mind and call the anti Gikuyu militia of Ateso to come and clear us away, given that we are the remnant Kwekwe.

We enter Ikapel’s home compound while under intense fear of the unknown. He directs us to go and sit in a small car at the parking yard. It is open. The car is so small that we fail to understand why it is not parked in the bedroom. It is made in China. It has made Njeri to giggle but amid worry and fear.

Ikapel comes out of the house, appearing at the door putting in a leather jacket. He goes at the driving wheel and starts off the car, his shoulders jutting out like two small minarets.

Count yourselves lucky I have not killed you.

‘You Gikuyus, I want to drop you at Bungoma town. I could have given you a place to sleep, but I would be going against the oath of my community, we are to thrash out the Gikuyu from this land at any cost. Killing them is the best option. Count yourselves lucky I have not killed you.’

He is saying all this as he is driving us back to the highway so that we can be driven to Bungoma town. We don’t know how we can respond to this statement. It is Njeri that has been intervening in his speech with shallow and affected thanks, surely thanks. The surely that she fails to pronounce only for it to come out in a Gikuyu way as ‘shuhari.’

We are now in Bungoma, we are out of the car. Ikapel has only slowed down and snarled to us to jump out without stopping the car. We obeyed. I am not injured and neither is Njeri. Our bags are also safe and intact. We have them with ourselves. Ikapel has not shown any interest inpaymentnor for robbing us. His speed of driving back is not without lessons. He is driving away speedily as if he is being chased by death itself.

Bungoma is somehow active. There is loud music being played in the bars that are still open. We are able to here Franco being played from somewhere. There are several motorcycle taxi riders all over, they are known in the local language as boda boda. The people on the street are singing songs of freedom. One boda boda rider by-passes us , with a flag of the republic of Bungoma waving on his motor bicycle horn.

We are happy a man looking very peaceful is approaching us. He is looking sober and physically organised. He is in gumboots and the reflector jacket. A safety uniform for Motor bicycle riding.

‘Are you Gikuyus or Kenyans?’ He shouts at us as he keeps on walking towards us. We clutch on one another out of fear the way a toddler clutches on her mother when threatened.

‘We are Gikuyus, please don’t kill us.’ I shout back to him.

‘What are you still doing here; have you not seen thousands of your brothers lying dead on the street? Or do you still want to steal from us? Are you not satisfied with stealing our votes?’

He hurls insults at us like an erupting volcano.

‘We are only students, we learned in Uganda, don’t kill us, help us to get to our home in Central province.’ I try to plead.

‘Say you are Gikuyu prostitutes in Uganda, not students. Am I right or wrong?’ We have only kept mum to this, it is looking more dangerous. Saying yes is an open hurt to our ego, given that we are not prostitutes, but at the same time saying no is an open road to possibilities of jeopardy given the volatile nature of the situation.

‘Tell me, are you Gikuyu prostitutes?’ He snarls again.

‘We are Gikuyus but not prostitutes,’ Njeri answers back.

She is not through with her statement, when a man emerges from darkness. He is in peasant attire, stinking of alcohol. His actions tower those of the other one. He instantly ricochets into maddeningly loud shouting. He shouts as if under attack: ‘Kwekwe!Kwekwe!Kwekwe!’

He is shouting and jumping around in cycles while pointing at us. A riff-raff of other peasants come running to where we are. They are all armed. Some carrying stones, some carrying sticks, pangas, clubs, slings, catapults and arrows. The last one comes armed with a two pronged spear.

The man that had been asking as to confirm if we are prostitutes is now sublimated into our saviour. It is dejavu of some kind. He is already shouting to armed peasants not to attack us, as we are only his visitors from Uganda. He is shouting in the local language of Bungoma, Lubukusu. We are hearing him shouting some guttural sounds of Lekha Lekha Lekha Wase, bano bakhasi base! He is shouting as he waves his hands to them. Perhaps he is beckoning them not to kill us.

Good luck, all the peasants that came never attack us. They look on us with questioning eyes as we look at them with eyes of despair. One of them orders the man in our defense to take us away.

All others break into a raucous laughter. He must have said some sexually offensive word in their mother tongue.

‘Follow me.’ The man that appeared first hurls the command at us, taking the bag from Njeri. We follow him timidly, walking behind him without talking. The hordes of riff-raff disperse into different directions murmuring disappointments among themselves. We walk for a while then we disappear off into village darkness, away from the street lights of the town.

The man then tells us that his name is Wakoli. He apologizes to us that he was only teasing us then the other man began howling a war cry. He persists that he is sorry. He also tells us that the curse would have hung on his head and his clan if anything at all bad had happened to us. He argues that he is the first one to have to begin talking to us so our blood would have been a burden on his head. He says all this as we are walking on. He proves soft and polite as we keep on walking in darkness. I have even become confused; don’t know if we are going east, west, south or north. We are only moving forward. We have covered a distance of more than forty miles.

I don’t know what has happened to Njeri. She has just effortlessly blurted out a question whether Gikuyus have been killed or not. Wakoli has not even looked back to answer her. He just gives her the minimum figure as we are walking on.

‘Yes they have been, not less than a thousand.’

I nudge at Njeri, as she does the same to me. We keep quiet for some time as we walk on.

‘But my sisters it is not good to shed blood, to kill the one that has not offended you. In our community we say that the cow looks at the one slaughtering it not at the owner of butchery.’

‘Yes,’

We respond simultaneous.

‘That is why I did not want those people to take you, and I am the one that happened to see you first, eeh! A dying beast does not blame the one that lay the trap, but one who thrashed it out of hideout.’

‘It is true.’

Njeri affirms the folk wisdom as we enter wakoli’s compound. I am surprised the Bukusu has as nice proverbs as the Gikuyus, is it because they are all Bantu speakers?

We have reached the door yard of Wakoli’s cottage, it is locked. The padlock is a small tri-circle. The one with the words made in China near its keyhole. Wakoli asks us to wait for him as he runs at his mother’s house to get the key.

When he is out of the earshot, Njeri suggests that we run away, because she is not sure if he has gone for the key or to summon the killers to come and slaughter us. I do not agree with her idea. My consciousness is not disturbed; I believe Wakoli’s words. In confirmation to my projection, Wakoli comes back with a calabash half filled with Busaa in his hands. Busaa is homemade beer, brewed from maize, yeast, millet and sorghum. He sips at it and gives it to me.

‘Sip it my sister.’

I ignore her nudges, and I am not afraid of Wakoli, he is a Bantu like me and I am sure he cannot kill me unless we have a personal war.

I take the calabash and take a big sip, Wakoli is unlocking the door, and Njeri is stealing secret pinches at my sides that whatever I am drinking may be poison. I ignore her nudges, and I am not afraid of Wakoli, he is a Bantu like me and I am sure he cannot kill me unless we have a personal war. I gulp Busaa down my stomach like a seasoned village carouser.

I clear the stuff from the calabash and give it back to Wakoli. Busaa tastes good. It is better than the expensive brews our people often struggle to import from Europe.

Wakoli asks us to come in, he assists us to carry the bags into the house. We sit on homemade chairs, there is enough light from the Namatigiyi lamp. Wakoli has almost broken our ribs with laughter when he tells us that his lamp is called Namatigiyi. It is made from an old tin, it has a wick made from an old rug of a blanket. We are amused more when Wakoli again tells us that other name of this lamp is Koroboi.

An old woman and two young girls walk in and found us giggling. The old woman is Wakoli’s mother and the girls are his young sisters. They all greet us in a very polite style, saying mulembe on each hand shake. The mother asks us to bow down so that she can pray. We all bow, Wakoli and his sisters do the same. The old lady makes a long prayer, intermittently punctuated with shouting of riswaa by Wakoli and his sisters. Wakoli shouts in base but the sisters in alto. The prayer ends in a final shouting of Amen but after a tortuous and winding speech of a prayer by the old woman.

She tells us to feel free, and then she walks out to her house. The two girls follow her. They are not in any fear the way we are. I personally feel so bad to be what I am.

Wakoli has just switched a one battery radio for us to hear some news as we talk among ourselves before we sleep. The news that comes up is horrible. The rural rabbles have killed my father and some of my sisters and brothers. They found them in Thika town and butchered them. It is brutal. They have killed them because he wascollaborating with Odinga; this is the politics that is not preferred by the members of Gikuyu community. It is said he has been a secret disciple of Raila Odinga, the opposition politician. But I wonder why they have also killed my sisters and brothers. I am struggling to suppress tears, but it is a difficult situation. I have decided not to divulge it to Wakoli or Njeri.

Njeri is now busy with her smartphone. She is on her Facebook page looking at the trending news. She also comes across the news that Gikuyu people are killing their fellow Gikuyus from the diaspora.

She shows me her cellphone. Those that have been chased away from other parts of the country are killed by their own fellow tribesmen. The reason for all this is land. The returning Gikuyus are now supposed to share in the small portion of family land. I have failed to commend about this, because I don’t understand how one can kill a brother, a brother that is already a victim of circumstances as an internally displaced person because of land.

I ask Wakoli to show us where to sleep. But before he answers, the two girls appear at the door with food on a papyrus platter. It is stiff porridge and a chicken. Appearance of food makes Njeri put away her cellphone. Then the girls arrange the food before us, and the bigger girl asks us to bow so that she can say a prayer before we can eat. We all bow.

Then she a prays in English. A funny prayer:

O god of our ancestors,

Bless the food before us,

Let it give us the energy,

And let the chicken be sweet,

God we ask you for appetite,

Let our visitors enjoy the food,

And let the food build their bodies,

I make this prayer through the name

Of your small child who is our Lord

Jesus Christ, Amen

Wakoli says ‘Amen’ and pulls away the cozy from the food. The small girl holds an old broken plastic bowl for us to wash our hands. She begins with her brother; I think it is a sign of respect or cultural value for a man. Then we begin eating with appetite.

The big girl who has prayed walks out. But the smaller one remains on standby, in case we need salt or anything else she is there to assist.

I am musing about the prayer as we eat. A prayer that is a blend of pieties; African religious thoughts and Christian thoughts. I remember the politics of religion we studied at the university which called such mixed pieties as christo-paganism. Then gradually the musing about the prayers wanes off my mind into involuntary concentration on the appetizing effect of the chicken on my tongue.

It is sweet. The old woman has cooked it in a nice way. It is my first encounter with a well-cooked chicken. At least this is my first taste of peace since I parted from Uganda under fear of arrest by the police.

I am also surprised there is no war and political violence in this village. Our talking with Wakoli reveals that even most of the people here did no go to vote, especially women. They don’t have identification cards, hence they can’t vote. Men of this village fear that if their women can have identification cards they will become unruly or even learn bad manners like the town women.

We finish the food, Wakoli is a voracious eater. He has all the masculinity in his character. He has just been crushing with sound the bones in meat. He was given the pelvis. It appears humongous in his hands; he has not been alive to this. Had I not been a lesbian, Wakoli could have been the right man for me. He is simple, natural and not aware that he is in poverty.

Njeri again blurts effortlessly as if she is possessed by the devil of loose talking. She is only realizing that she has asked a wrong question when she is already through with the asking.

She has asked Wakoli why he does not have a wife. This question makes me suspect Njeri of having sexual feelings for Wakoli. I don’t like the way she feels for men yet I am there for her. He does not look at her face nor even talk anything in response. He just takes some water, swallows some and gurgles some to clean his mouth, then he swallows the water he has been gurgling and asks us to follow him out as he also tells the small girl to return utensils to the main house.

I tell her to pass word of thanks to the mother for the nice food she has cooked for us. There is no intense darkness outside given that the moon is now out of the clouds.

We follow Wakoli by walking in a straight line under the eaves of a ruffian thatch, Njeri in the middle.

Wakoli begins talking to us as he touches Njeri on the shoulders. She stands there without any sign of resistance. I am offended.

I am stealing a sexual feeling as I enjoy looking at her well rounded buttocks. We walk around the house and we stop. Wakoli begins talking to us as he touches Njeri on the shoulders. She stands there without any sign of resistance. I am offended.

‘Look, my sisters.’

He says as he points at a grave. No grass has grown on it. It looks somehow fresh. I tell you, it is scary to look at a grave in the night, when only the crickets are making eerie chirping sounds, country hornbills, crown birds, rain birds and owls are deeply cooing at a distance. I feel scared.

‘My wife sleeps here, it is now six months, and she was as brown as you.’ He says this but in a very low tone. I am seeing painful feelings of loss and trauma in his eyes.

‘What happened?’ Njeri blurts again. Wakoli staggers as if he is stepping on a stumbling block. I look at him through the corner of my eyes; I notice that he is thinking that we are assuming his wife died of AIDS. He takes some minutes then goes ahead to talk.

‘My sisters, it is very hard to maintain a light-skinned woman in this community of mine. My clansmen killed my wife by using voodoo. My uncle planted a voodoo secret in her footprint. Look at the other side near my mother’s house, that is the grave of my father, they also killed him by using voodoo, it was last year December, in fact it was on Christmas day when my father breathed last.’

I have just breathed heavily and pat him on the shoulder and tell him to soldier on as a man. Wakoli asks us to go back into the house. He organizes the beddings for us to rest. His mattress is homemade. It is made of a sisal sack, stuffed with dried banana fibers, the banana fibers helps in cushioning just like a sponge. He informs us that he is going to sleep out at the grave, at the side of his wife, as he is still mourning her.

He is not aware of lesbian relationships like the one I have with my wife Njeri. The village upbringing has kept him intact from diverse information. But anyway he is a courteous man. He wishes us a good rest during the night as he walks out closing the door for us.

It is in the wee of the night. We are alone in the house. I and Njeri. I decide to divulge to her that my father and brothers as well as my sisters at home in Kiambu have been murdered by the rural rabbles. She gets emotional, she sobs as I also sob. She takes me into her arms as I also take her into mine. She is warm and soft. We sleep and remain like this in one another’s loving arms. We drift slowly beyond our senses into strong feelings of love, and then we play sex during this night. It is more joyful than before.

It is the persistent gaggling of the hen we have slept with in the house that has just woken me up from my dreamless sleep. It is to my surprise that it is already eight in the morning, 31st December 2017. Njeri is still in a deep sleep. Her thighs are not covered, they are brown, shreds of blood veins are faintly seen under her light skin. She is softly snoring like a rabbit. She looks nice.

The hen is now stubborn, ceaselessly gaggling with irritating noise and jumping from one spot to another. It has dropped an egg somewhere on our bed. On the side of our legs. It now wants to go out but the door is not open. It jumps on the bed and steps on Njeri’s head.

Njeri wakes up violently thinking that someone is attacking her. She throws her fist in the air and pushes the hen away. The hen makes more violent noise. The door to our house opens; it is Wakoli coming in to let the hen out of the house. He finds us still undressed. Our panties are conspicuously thrown at the old table in the middle of the room. He artfully avoids looking at them, though he has already seen them. I shrewdly pulls the blanket to shawl up our nakedness away from his eyes.

He greets us in Kiswahili without showing any moods.

Then he starts chasing the hen out after collecting the egg it laid on our bed. The hen jumps randomly around the room as if it is not seeing the door. But finally, it finds the door and flies out gaggling in a style. Wakoli asks us to keep on resting as he walks out pocketing the egg, carefully closing the door for us.

Njeri giggles softly. I ask her what it is all about. Then she tells me that she has been dreaming that she is pregnant carrying Athuman’s baby and when Athuman discovered that she is bisexual he declined from accepting the responsibility instead he hired the killers from the family of Id Amin Dada.

The killers raped us and later on killed both of us. As she is still narrating to me about the dream Wakoli’s big sister walks in with our breakfast foods, kettle steaming with tea, sweet potatoes and ground nuts. She asks to come out of our beddings. She walks out leaving us water to wash our faces. I dress myself up and asked Njeri to do the same. Then walk to the makeshift rack holding the water for washing while obviously assuming that it is cold water, to my surprise she has boiled it for us. I feel good and shout to Njeri that the water is not cold, Njeri joins me and we wash our faces, we also brush our teeth and then go at the table to take tea with ground nut sandwiched inside sweet potatoes. I tell you, we enjoyed our breakfast as we giggled amongst ourselves.

Wakoli is back with a newspaper in his hand. It is Taifa Leo, Kiswahili version of the Daily Nation. Its top page is full of sad stories. The Kalenjin have also turned against the Gikuyu. Already more than two thousand people have died. Women and children were also killed. The next page has a sadder story, thirty Gikuyu peasants have been killed by being burned in the church at Kiambaa village in the Rift Valley province. They had taken refuge in the church, and then the Kalenjin militia surrounded the church and set it on fire. One woman threw her baby out in an effort to safe it, it was a boy, and then a Kalenjin militia threw it back into the clouds of fire. His colleagues patted him on the head with praises. The paper summarizes the news story by averring that therift valley towns of Eldoret, Kapsabet, Nakuru, Naivasha and Molo are now a no-go-zone.

I pass the newspaper to Njeri, for she has been anxiously stretching her neck to read. She goes for the obituary pages and then astrological pages for star gazing rather than reading the current news about politics in Kenya. Wakoli laughs at her.

I jokingly use Kiswahili to ask Wakoli where he has taken the egg. He also jokes back by answering me in Lubukusu that the egg is now at Khusikara.I ask him what he means. Then he tells me that Khusikara is the egg-bank. I mused about it, I wondered why our African languages are not supported by our governments to be taught at the universities, the way French, Chinese, Japanese, Ukrainian and Russian is taught. It is very unfortunate for Africa’s education to be stranded in the current manner of being limited to the knowledge of one colonial language.

When I ask Wakoli to differentiate the Nest and the egg-bank, he points out that nest is for the small birds like pigeons and wild birds, whereas egg-bank is for large birds. He goes also ahead to differentiate in his mother tongue that the nest is tsizwi and egg-bank is Khusikara. Wakoli’s mother appears at the door, she interferes with the lessons in Lubukusu that Wakoli is giving to me. She calls Wakoli out after greeting us with very long greetings that inquires how peaceful our night had been.

We are to make a decision, either to use Wakoli’s house as our refuge during the time of war, or we keep on moving.

A confabulation ensues between I and Njeri. We are to make a decision, either to use Wakoli’s house as our refuge during the time of war, or we keep on moving. Njeri discourages me from keeping ourselves as refugees at Wakoli’s house. She predicts that we have nothing we can be doing here. But instead she persists that we move on to the next destination. I also consider her sentiments with deep concern. I finally agree, but now where are we to go given that the road from Malaba to Nairobi is heated up with hostility against the Gikuyu.

Njeri again suggests that we use the Kitale–Lodwae-Marsabit-Mombasa route. There is no war there. This is what she is deducing from her Facebook page as the trending news. However the challenge is that there are scant vehicles on this route. The journey of one day is going to take us five days, considering the fact that we have to cross the southern island in Lake Turkana before getting ourselves to Marsabit.

Njeri also tells me that when we get to Mombasa it will be easy for us to run away to Germany, as stowaways in one of the ships. She also tells me that it is only in Germany we can settle down as a homosexual couple without punishment and retribution from the government of the day. I find it convincing, however it is painful to move away from your country of birth, from the people you grew up with to a foreign country for no other reason but because you are running away from an exclusive politics and law. I have no other choice but to accept the situation.

I think like this for some time as we wait for Wakoli to come back so that we can tell him that we are now going. For now the story ends but it is to be continue later in the future, given life.

holding hands with rainbow bracelet
Beldan Sezen
Alexander Opicho comes from Kenya. He is a bi-curious poet, essayist and Short story writer.
Beldan Sezen is continuously striving to investigate other forms of reading experiences and as such ventures into cross-disciplines such as installation, video, playwright, and sound. For the frauen museum wiesbaden she installed her first graphic novel Zakkum as a giant walk though book and showed her editioned book Iron Bunnies Hop in Santurce, Puerto Rico as a video installation, whispering her inner monologue to the in and out fading images . Her book Snapshots of a Girl was named to the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow List for the best LGBT books for adult readers in 2016. In 2015 she was awarded with a Global Arts Fund Award by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Sezen has been a resident at the League Residency at Vytlacil, the P-af residency and Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Her editioned books are represented by Booklyn. She lives and works in Amsterdam and NYC. You can find out more about her work on her website.

1 Response

  1. Verena says:

    Thank you Alexander for writing and sharing this story! Thank you Beldan for your beautiful illustration!

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